Casio G'zOne Boulder ReviewVerizon Wireless G'zOne Boulder 5.5
The Boulder’s UI is very ho-hum, as we’ve come to expect from Verizon phones. It has some good looking display themes, but they are simply skins for the red-bar interface. The only customization is with the d-pad shortcuts, where the user can assign three out of the four keys. Right is hard-coded to My Shortcuts, which allows the user to assign four quick access items. It prompted us for an update the first time we turned it on, but even still we experienced a few random resets and menu lag at times. The phonebook can hold up to 500 entries with four numbers (two mobile, home and work) and two email addresses per entry. Voice command is handled by VoiceSignal, which is as good as ever.
The Boulder is a full-featured media phone. It supports VCast Video and Music (but not TV) and can hold up to 8GB of music via the microSD port. It is compatible with Verizon’s recently launched Rhapsody service. The video quality is ok on the Boulder’s small screen, but good enough to watch quick clips such as Olympic replays. The phone runs BREW applications, such as VZNavigator and Field Force Manager, and users can download content from Verizon’s deck.
The camera and camcorder were both pretty poor. Images came out muddled with blurred lines. The software is slow, so image capture doesn’t actually happen until a second after the shutter sound, which means most users would be moving the camera when the image is snapped. The camcorder can record at a max of 176x144 and is appropriately pixilated. The only redeeming quality is that the Boulder has a flash, though its more useful as a flashlight.
Verizon has had PTT for years now, but poor performance and no interoperability with Nextel has led to Verizon all but writing off the technology. Though the coverage may be spotty, Nextel’s PTT simply worked and worked fast. Call setup times were under a second, which VZW (or Sprint, with Ready Link) could never come within spitting distance of.
Sprint recently launched QChat, which brings CDMA PTT over Rev. A and most importantly is interoperable with Nextel. We came away quite impressed with their offering when we reviewed the Sanyo PRO series. Though VZW has ducked questions of how their new PTT service works, it does indeed run over Rev. A and we have to think it is closely related to QChat. Unlike Sprint’s service which only works in Rev. A coverage, VZW allows PTT over any data connection, even 1x. When PTT coverage is available, the signal indicator switches from white on black to black on white.
When in EVDO coverage (the phone doesn’t differentiate from Rev. A and Rev. 0) the service generally works well enough. Call setup times are usually under a second, but we did notice delays up to 5s at times which we never experienced with Sprint’s service. Once the call was connected communication was lightning fast. On 1x, however, the service was as terrible as always. We experienced call setup times of up to 30s, as well as outright failures. After setup there was a noticeable delay in communication, and more than one time we were connected but got no audio on either phone. At its worst there were 15s delays in communication after setup.
Furthermore, we have four review units (two Boulders, two Adventures) and are testing in a blanketed Rev. A location. At times any of the four phones may drop to 1x or no PTT coverage while some or all of the others remain in EVDO or PTT coverage. There has been no discernable pattern with this in either the phone models or individual units. We have even been in EVDO coverage but not had PTT available for one reason or another. Sprint’s coverage may be somewhat limited due to their Rev. A requirement, but it makes for a better and more stable product for the end user.
VZW maintains a separate PTT contact list from the regular phone book, which allows them to show presence indicators so you know if your contact is available or not. If a PTT number is stored in the regular phonebook you can still contact them via PTT, but there is no indication that they are PTT capable like on Sprint phones. The PTT button is awkward on the Boulder; instead of the traditional large button on the middle left side it is near the top and very small.
Overall we feel that it’s time for VZW to give up PTT. The new service works better than the original, but only when you are in Rev. A coverage and even then it is still not as good as iDEN or Direct Connect on Sprint. What ultimately dooms the service is its inability to talk with Nextel phones. Individual Nextel subscribers may be leaving in droves, but its PTT service it is still an industry standard and there are too many businesses that rely on Direct Connect as their primary means of communication. The bottom line is that VZW simply offers an inferior product.
Casio G'zOne Boulder Review - Software and Features